Bicycling Magazine Tucson, AZ: Rillito River Path 

Tour Tucson's suburban desert terrain on this 12-mile stretch of bike path following the dried-out banks of the Rillito River.

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Author: Bicycling Magazine
Date: 19 Jan 2009 5:24:30 PM
Activity: Bicycling
State: Arizona (AZ)
Distance: 12.04 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 47 ft
Total Loss: 266 ft
Net Change: -219 ft
Difficulty: 3 / 10
Tags: Arizona, Tucson
Rating: Unrated   Rate it

Popular with cyclists, runners and walkers, this 12-mile trail (and 24-mile out-and-back) on Tucson's north side follows the banks of the usually-dry Rillito—Spanish for "little river." Both riverbanks feature developed trails and this route criss-crosses traffic and pedestrian bridges to sample this bike-friendly route's best features.

Starting at the Craycroft Road trailhead, follow the asphalt path along the north bank, heading west. The trail dips under major roads and hits one of only two street-level crossings at Dodge Boulevard near mile 2.6. This route crosses the river three times: at a pedestrian bridge near mile 3.8, on the sidewalk of Campbell Road—watch for bats nesting in the cracks under the bridge—and to avoid the pedestrian-only stretch before the north-bank terminus. Though this east-west route looses about 200 feet of elevation, the incline is barely noticeable on the return trip.

Restrooms, mid-ride rest points and easy-access parking are located conveniently along the trail, but bring plenty of water (especially in summer) and protect yourself from the sun. Though you'll cruise under occasional trees, there is little shade along this route.

-Mapped by Scott Morris,

TO TRAILHEAD: The Rillito River Path is easily accesses from several points along the river, on Tucson's north side. To access the Craycroft Road Trailhead, take Craycroft Road north and make an immediate left into the parking area after crossing over the Rillito River.

Position Format: Datum:

Rillito River

Distance: 12.04 mi Points: 373
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi

Points of Interest


Location: 32.270683, -110.875552
There is plenty of parking at the Rillito River Path's eastern terminus, just off Craycroft Road on the northeast side of town.


Location: 32.270592, -110.892051
The trail is accessible from many places, including this lot on North Swan Road that also offers plenty of parking.


Location: 32.272018, -110.914265
Use caution crossing Dogde Blvd.; this is one of the few street-level crossings on the trail.


Location: 32.282126, -110.927383
Turn left and cross the riverbed on Country Club Bridge. The trail along the river's south bank is paved, but the north bank trial west of here is not.


Location: 32.284956, -110.943498
St. Phillips Plaza near the ride's half-way point may be a good turn around spot if you're strapped for time. This parking lot also hosts the local farmers markets on Sundays year round.


Location: 32.294878, -110.985021
There are restrooms, sports fields, and large granite tablets honoring Tucson's children at this memorial park just before mile 8.


Location: 32.303140, -111.011950
After nearly 5 miles on the Rillito's north side, turn left to cross the La Cholla Bridge. Bikes aren't allowed on the north side of the bridge west of here.


Location: 32.310050, -111.037396
Use caution on this street-level crossing of Camino La Tierra.


Location: 32.315408, -111.043605
The paved trail ends 12 miles west of Craycroft just east of I-10. Dirt trails and service roads continue west to Santa Cruz River but they aren't established cycling routes.


Location: 32.271350, -110.889087
Good sunset viewing from side dirt trails © Scott Morris


Location: 32.272819, -110.893786
Cyclists on the river path, with the Santa Catalina Mountains as the backdrop. © Scott Morris

Red Sun

Location: 32.275631, -110.900030
Sunset along the Rillito © Scott Morris


Location: 32.281400, -110.936337
Hawks and eagles frequent the river trail's trees and railings. © Scott Morris


Location: 32.284049, -110.943718
Thousands of bats make their nest under the Campbell Avenue Bridge during mating season. If you time your ride to pass this point about an hour before sunset, you might see them streaming out into the night. © Scott Morris

Mountain Bridge

Location: 32.288003, -110.951786
The Mountain Bridge provides a key link for commuters heading to the University of Arizona 3 miles south of here. © Scott Morris

Rillito Park Race Track

Location: 32.288285, -110.956217
Also known as Rillito Downs, this historic horse racing arena still hosts several live races every year. © Scott Morris


Location: 32.290225, -110.964607
Well built bridges cross tributary drainages like this one near 1st Avenue. © Scott Morris

Dirt Trails

Location: 32.298669, -111.004014
Zooming through the trees on parallel dirt trails © Scott Morris

River Park

Location: 32.303103, -111.011953
A cyclist entering the River Park Trail. © Scott Morris


Location: 32.302197, -111.011986
The only real hills on the trail are short dips and climbs beneath roadway bridges. © Scott Morris


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